Emily Wyckoff

A warm – but wet! – winter getaway- Great Wolf Lodge

This weekend we surprised our kids and took them for an overnight stay at the Great Wolf Lodge – an indoor water park/hotel. The one we went to is only about a half hour or so from our house – in Niagara Falls, Canada, but the other eleven locations are all over the country, from Washington State to New Hampshire – check out their website for a complete listing (www.GreatWolf.com). The formula at all of the “Great Wolves” is basically the same – spacious, fun-filled, sparkling indoor water park with a huge wave pool, toddler area and enough thrilling water slides to satisfy family members of all ages. In addition to the water park area, there are two restaurants, an adult and child spa, a kids camp, an arcade, ice cream shop and Pizza Hut. I’ve probably even left a few things out – this is kids’ nirvana. These water parks are not open to the public - you must stay at the hotel to use the facilities.

Our trip started on the rocky side – we had it planned for a few months and got the kids in the car for a false outing, no problem. We pull up to the Great Wolf Lodge – which is enormous, with a huge “Great Wolf Lodge” sign, and my 8 year old daughter, who has been there before, asks in a bored voice, “Why are we stopping here?” My six year old daughter bursts into tears because she wanted to go on the fake outing, and my five year old son is passed out in his seat. Not a stellar beginning.

Once everyone got the gist that this was a surprise – a present from Daddy and me – and we were going to go to the water park and stay at a hotel (huge thrill for the kids), things turned around. Until we walked across the crowded parking lot into the mobbed lobby. I thought I had carefully planned this outing around a day that was a U.S. Holiday – President’s Day – yet not a Canadian Holiday – Canada doesn’t have presidents so I thought we were safe. Little did I know that two years ago Canada adopted “Family Day” as a national holiday and it yes, coincides with President’s Day. While my husband waited in the very long check in line, the kids and I enjoyed the spacious lobby with huge comfy furniture, a blazing fire, a girl making balloon animals for waiting kids, and a huge stuffed bear singing songs. Kids had a great time - Great Wolf has this down pat.

Our room was, unfortunately, not available for early check in so we grabbed our suits and flip flops and headed to the water park area. It was packed with people with lines snaking down the stairs – mid- afternoon is not the best time to hit the water slides. Lockers are available to stash your stuff and everything at the park – from your room lock, to accessing photos taken on the slides to locker locks – are accessed by the wrist band all family members receive upon check in and must wear during the entire stay – very cool (yet challenging for my five year old son who was going crazy because he had to keep it on the whole time. Lots of  ”Too tight!!”s). The kids didn’t mind waiting in the lines and my two older kids could do all the slides themselves – most of them are slides you ride down on single or double inner tubes. My son needed an adult on most of these but there were a few slides he could tackle on his own, along with an elevated water playground area with huge water guns, pails, and fountains to play in.

The first thing I noticed was how clean this place is. Sparkling. They close two of the pools for a few hours each afternoon to clean them. The second thing I noticed was how safe this place is. Attentive life guards are everywhere and there is only one entrance/exit and it is manned by staff - I wasn’t worried about my kids escaping. We did enforce the buddy system, even if my husband or I was the buddy, which always helps.

So we got a lay of the land in the water park until we could check in, at which point we thankfully escaped the crowds and had a snack (brought from home) and some down time in our room. All the rooms have mini kitchenettes with little fridges, coffee makers and microwaves. We got a standard room which was nice enough but nothing exciting (2 queens and a pull out couch) but for a little bit more they have KidCamp and WolfDen suites with bunk beds that kids love. Then it was back to the water park from 6 – 9pm, closing time (note: multiple bathing suits for all came in handy!). This was the perfect time to take advantage of hardly any lines as most people were eating dinner or had already called it a night and were going to take advantage of the arcade and story hour. We all had a blast on the slides – including my husband and me!

Next it was a late dinner of Pizza Hut pizza in the room and the kids crashed. Ok, we did too. The next morning we had breakfast from home in the room (if you are trying to save money, definitely bring snacks and breakfast with you - very easy with the room set up and kitchenette), loaded the car, and staked out a place in line for the water park which opens at 9am. The morning was also relatively uncrowded for the first hour or so, so we slid to our heart’s content. Checkout is 11, but you can enjoy the water park the entire day of your check out. We were all pretty much waterlogged by 1pm, which was the end of our stay.

So if you are looking for a warm getaway (it’s 84 degrees in the park) without going far that’s guaranteed to satisfy all family members, check out the Great Wolf Lodge.


4 Responses to “A warm – but wet! – winter getaway- Great Wolf Lodge”

  1. Ken Millsap says:

    We stayed at the Kansas City Lodge at Thanksgiving. I agree with the “kid” amenities. They were great. I had a problem with the pricing as we had made some reservations and upgraded and “misunderstood” the upgrade prices. The Turkey Dinner was not nearly as good as at home (but you didn’t have to fix it). Bring eats and drinks as prices are at or above average at concessions throughout the hotel. The water park is fantastic! Story time is great. And the Magic Quest is fun for young and older. It is complicated, so plan an adult with kids 12 and under. We had a group of 13 and stayed 3 days. I might not go back but the kids and grandkids probably will.

  2. Patti says:

    We went to the one in Pa. Had a real nice time. A little pricey in the meal department, But the kids had a real great time.

  3. Kelli says:

    We too have the privelage of a Great Wolf lodge in Traverse City, Michigan. Located in the lower peninsula of Michigan near the pinkie of the mitt. We love our Great Wolf Lodge. They really do have it down pat and are extremely accomodating. We treat ourselves to this park on occasion and our kids love it, not to mention they sleep like little babies after a rousing day in the water park. I would highly recommend this or any other Great Wolf Lodge. it is well worth your time and is a great clean family fun activity.
    Go Great Wolf Lodge!

  4. NJBuckeye says:

    We talke my niece and nephew to the one in the Poconno’s each year. We bring our own breakfast (cereal, milk, etc.) and do the Pizza Hut on site for dinner.

    Not only is changing clothes a hassle for dinner, but no one wants to change back or swim after the dining room.

    The Magic Wand things is about $25/kid, but you can bring the want back and have the game reactivated for $10 kid. We had a 6 year old,a nd he was interested in using the want, not the theme of the game.

    We find it safe, and even when our niece was 2, she LOVED it. There were things for her, and her 5 year old brother, and as they grow, they contine to like it.

    Tips: Bring your own breakfast, and do Pizza Hut and dessert from home, and it isn’t so pricy (compare to an outdoor park and a night at a hotel).

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